Data Reflection

Below is a heatmap of all the data I collected during the past three month for my History of the English Language course.

I have collected a total of 59 data points, the majority of which are unsurprisingly located in Hammana, as per my project for this course. The repartition of languages collected is as follow:

While there obviously is overlap with languages often appearing together, the general overview reveals that in the end, in the data I collected, there is an equiprobability of the three main languages in lebanon.

I have collected the bulk of my data early one, with the majority of the Hammana data points being collected on February the 13th for time management purposes. However, the I have noticed that the other data points I have collected, having no specific directive in mind for entries outside of Hammana, tend to be mostly funny ones where there is case of weird or misusage. This probably means that, being outside the realm of my project, the funny ones were the most incentivizing for me to get out my phone and register the data point, revealing a certain evolutionary pattern in the Urban Jungle and the survival of the funniest.

Looking back at my data collection in Hammana, I wish I would have done it differently. Doing it at a pretty early stage and driven by the "rue" signs anomalie versus the English color zones, most of my initial collection revolved around getting as much of these as possible. In hindsight, this was not very useful, with the most interesting information being extracted from the final hour of my collection in the city center, patterns I only noticed after mulling over the data and puttting in map form.

In a certain sense, my failiure at the modelling process of the perceived problem at hand was revealed to me with the maps generated by this supposedly flawed process, reaffirming the usefulness and arguably the primacy of modelling (and failiure at it) over pure result-driven research.

Mapping Mobility

One requirement of the ENGL 229 is a “Wildcard” blog post, which is similar to the other course assignments with the only difference being the subject choice lies at my discretion.

As such, for my wildcard project, I decided to assuage my curiosity, peaked at a very interesting column header in the metadata collected on the Fulcrum mobile app, and that is the “GPS_SPEED” column. I already know that GPS modules in cellular phones can calculate speed, which is how Google generates its traffic maps, however I didn’t know that speed and direction were recorded into the EXIF data of an image alongside the static coordinates.

This gave me the idea of generating a mobility map to try and establish a certain cultivated standard on roads, where the effect of regionality I expected would be lower since they are travelled by a larger and more diverse chunk of the population.

However, a cursory look at the data at hand reveals that it is far from clean or standardized. There are more than 600 entries which are blanks, and 600 more which are tagged as -1. Looking online, I couldn’t find any indication on what this could mean, however the general consensus was that the EXIF data tagging mechanism varied wildly from hardware to hardware, with many irregularities often seeping into the GPS section of the data (as witnessed during my own datacollection, with automatic geo-referencing often missing the mark by kilometers)

Nevertheless, I carried on and created the following map:

For this map, I considered the "-1" entreis as being static alongside the "0" ones, and did not include any of the blank points. Another thing I attempted was the generation of two superimposed animated heatmaps, to see of there were any different patterns between data collection on foot and in a car, however cartoDB didnot seem to support multiple animated heatmaps as layers, and a map with two static heatmaps was too noisy and not useful.

There is a lot of unexpected overlap on main road networks, which could be either attributed to taking pictures while in traffic or to the aforemetionned artefacts and general iffiness of the EXIF geo-tagging mechanism. There are however some clear emerging patterns: The bulk of the collection around the center of beirut seems to be static, while there are some streaking and usually linear moving data points on major roads outside of the city.

Exploring the Spatiotemporality of the OED

This week’s assignment for Dr David J. Wrisley’s History of the English Language had us “explore the spatiotemporality of the OED”, and involved taking a closer and more analytical look at one of the most prestigious and influential dictionaries in the modern era.

Part 1: Neologisms

Between 2000 and 2016, 115 terms entered the Oxford English Dictionary. One interesting thing is the prevalence of private companies and services, such as “BitTorrent” and “Skype”, both with a plethora of competitors in the field. Another interesting thing to note is that while there are 115 word entries, the “subject” filter accounts for only 56. These are partitioned as follow:

Technology and science make up the majority of these new words as is expected. Another incomplete classification is the "first citation" tag, yielding the following pie chart:

The most interesting thing revealed in this chart is the jargon used for words originating from the web. While 6 words are specifically noted as originating from twitter, 9, the largest number, are reportedly originating from the "Usenet" a largely obsolete term, saliant in the absence of an "internet" classification(which in term could explain the incompleteness of this tag).

The majority of these neologisms are nouns, which could be explained by the prevalence among them of new technological and scientific jargon as suggested by the previous charts.

The final metric I considered is the language of origin, one, with the vast majority originating from English, European languages being the second biggest source of these neologisms. A closer look at the "other sources" category reveals no specific patterns, with entries ranging from internet slang to chemical elements.

Part 2: Old Norse in the OED

The second part of this assignment requires a close look at a category in the OED, more specifically at a distinct region or language, and then conducting a spatio-temporally informed analysis using the timeline tools functionality.

Naturally, I gravitated towards Old Norse, which is featured under Germanic>North Germanic languages in the categorization system. The OED lists 754 entries, many of which seem to be proper names relating to the Norse belief system, with entries such as “Asgard”, which is the realm inhabited by the Norse gods, “Baldur”, a Norse deity, and “Aesir” which refers to the group of deities.

Other words seem completely foreign to the my English literary sensibilities, such as "‘amboht” meaning handmaid, or “amell” meaning in the middle.

However, some words seem entirely mundane and are omnipresent in our modern usage of the language, such as “anger”, “bait”, “bush”, “daze” and “drag”. What’s even more interesting is that these five words have all entered the language in the same period of around 100 years, during the early 14th and 15th century. This seems to be represented in the "timeline" graph of the 754 entries shown below.

The graph also reveals a notable resurgence of Old Norse entries in the 1750’s, in the period of the rediscovery of the Edda’s and of Viking revival and Germanic romanticism. This is confirmed when looking at the 33 entries marked during these five decades, with proper nouns specifically pertaining to norse mythology being prominently featured, such as “Yggdrasil”, “Valkyrie”, “Skald”, “Nornie”, “Niflheim”, “Midgard”, “Aesir” and the word “Edda” itself.

This is even reflected in the part of speech category, especially when compared with the "1250" period:

During the "1250-1300" period, not only did more words enter the OED, but also more "functional" words such as verbs and adjectives, of which a sizeable number is now of regular use in the English language. However, most of the words entering the OED in the "1750-1800" period are nouns and nomenclatures recently uncovered by the sprawling germanic and viking revival, and specific to this very discourse.

Exercise on Semantic Change

"The times they are a-changin'."

Another week, another assignment by our beloved professor Dr David J Wrisley. This week’s exercise is less flamboyant at face value than its preceding homologue, yet it still boasts the same degree of exploration and experimentation that make these tasks particularly interesting to undertake. For this exercise, we are required to pick three words from a list posted on the course webpage, and then trace their semantic change by using the OED. To satisfy my generally northbound yearnings, I tried to pick three words I perceived to have Anglo-saxon origins: Weird, wicked and awesome. Here are the travel logs of my philological journey.

Day One: Weirded Out.

A cursive look at the search results after inputting the word “weird” into the OED reveals that the first leg of my track is not only long and arduous, but also bifurcating: There are three entries for "weird", a noun, an adjective and a verb. "Weird" the noun is by far the earliest of the three, the OED showing the earliest instance of the word in its database in 725, as “wyrde” and “wyrd”, the Anglo-Saxon form of the word. The OED offers the following etymological insight into the word:

The word is common in Old English, but wanting in Middle English until c1300, and then occurs chiefly in northern texts, though employed also by Chaucer, Gower, and Langland. The normal later and modern form would have been wird, and the substitution of werd, wērd (which is natural in south-eastern Middle English) is difficult to account for in the northern dialects. In senses now current the word is either Scottish or archaic (chiefly under the influence of Scottish writers).

The earliest meaning of the word pertain to the concept of fate, either directly referring to it, or referring to the “Fates”, the three goddesses determining the destiny of human life in Greek mythology. As the noun “weird” fades away in middle english, it resurfaces in adjective form in the early modern era, describing something as “Having the power to control the fate or destiny of human beings, etc.; later, claiming the supernatural power of dealing with fate or destiny.” This is a direct reverberation of the initial denotation of the goddesses, re-popularized by the growing number of translations of the classical world, and the fascination of literary authors by that period, most notably with the "weird sisters" appearing in shakespeare’s Macbeth.

1791 parody of Henry Fuseli's work by James Gillray

The word continued its trudge towards its modern meaning, only being imparted with it by the romantic authors, who seemed to initially use it with reference to the supernatural and the mystical. Eventually, this meaning pertaining to the odd occurrence was dropped and the oddness itself of the occurrence became the chief definition of the word.

Day Two: Wicked Word of the West

The second word’s path proved more linear but no less deep. There are two entries in the OED for the word “wicked”, both adjectives. The more straightforward one literally means having wicks, “wick” being the porous material used to light lanterns and other flame-informed apparatus. The other entry is more compelling, and is one more familiar to the modern reader, its meaning oscillating between various degrees and types of nefariousness. Interestingly, the nexus of meaning held by the word is fairly static throughout its long épopée from middle english to the modern era, with the single exception of its american slang meaning, denoting something “excellent, splendid”.

Its evolutionary pattern in the english language is lackluster and serves as a Casus belli to uproot the word etymologically. The OED gives us the following:

Middle English (13th cent.) wicked , wikked , apparently < wick adj.1, as wretched < wrecche wretch n. and adj. The later wiked appears to be merely a graphic variant; forms with the lowered stem-vowel are of both types, wekked, weked.

The promised oasis of knowledge after a long trek in the desert proved to be a mere puddle, further arousing my thirst rather than quenching it. The other X on the proverbial map points at the root of the word, "wick".

It is useful to say that “wick” seems to have a plethora of meanings in old english, notably through the prevalence of the root in many modern usages, such as in city names (warwick, norwich, the writing of which changed due to the regionality of the vernaculars of middle english) where it means home, the previously mentioned inflammable material and other specific usages.

Thankfully (and frankly, quite expectedly), clicking the “wick” hyperlink in the etymological section links directly to the one pertaining to “wicked”.

The page opened denotes an adjective, “wick”, with its earliest instance in the OED dating back to c.1200. The etymology offered reveals the origin of the word:

originally wicke , wikke , apparently adjective use of Old English wicca wizard (of which the feminine is wicce witch n.1); but perhaps an alteration of early Middle English wicci (? < *wiccig, < wicca), of which the following is the only known instance <
1154   Anglo-Saxon Chron.         (Laud)     ann. 1140                   Þe king him sithen nam in Hamtun þurhc wicci ræd.


Day Three: Awe and then Some

The final word's path was effortlessly treaded, my hard-earned sure-footing navigating the linguistic maze being put to work. "Awesome" immediatly leads to a single page in the OED, with the word's meanings oscilliating between the modern slang use of "marvellous" and the literal reading of the word, "full of awe". It's etymology section is also fairly succint and straightforward, directing us the root of the word, "awe", being combined with the suffix "some", two words in the 1500's combined, and then there were one.

The origin of the word awe reveals a very interesting development:

The actual awe, in 13th cent. aȝe, was < Old Norse agi, accusative aga (Danish ave), representing an Old Germanic *agon- weak masculine (of which the Old English repr. would have been aga); but this was preceded in Early English by native forms descending from Old English ęge, strong masculine, < Old Germanic *agiz strong neuter, Gothic agis fear, taken as if it were a strong masculine agi-z. (Both < ag-an to fear.) The Middle English eye, (aye,) and awe, were thus in origin and derivation distinct though cognate words, but were practically treated as dialectal variants of the same word, of which aye was still used in s.w. c1400, while awe was in the n.e. c1250. The sense-development is common to both. They are therefore here taken together; the examples being separated into groups α(from Old English ęge) and β(from Old Norse agi)

The root "awe" seems to have originated from two independent words from Old Norse and Old English, to be then used interchangeably in Middle English, before being gradually normalized into the modern spelling of the word. The meaning of the word variates between "Immedieate fear, terror" and Immense reverence when facing a supreme being, usually with divine connotations.